EagleHerald Staff Writer

MARINETTE—The Marinette School Board Tuesday discussed the current state of COVID-19 in the district and how the district will continue to handle it.

Superintendent Corry Lambie said a COVID plan had been discussed with the rest of the board during a workshop, and went over the plan during the regular board meeting for those who were not at the workshop. He said the COVID plan going forward would be based on a series of thresholds and parameters based on the sizes of the buildings.

He said the goals of the plan are to keep students and staff safe, as well as keep them in school for in-person education, using official guidelines from the state and federal government. “Some of those things aren’t followed perfectly; looking at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guideline that all students and staff are masked, everyone knows we have masks optional right now,” he said.

He said the way the plan is crafted, the district would be able to use layers of mitigation depending on the school, rather than going from optional masking to universal masking K-12 at once, as an example. “It can be done in isolation in maybe one classroom for students coming off of quarantine. Whatever it may be, we want to have some level of flexibility. It’s fluid and intended to serve the needs of roughly 2,000 students and 250 employees,” Lambie said.

Lambie said masking is still optional in all buildings but required on busses until January. Contact tracing and quarantining is still being done as necessary.

Lambie said the mitigation plan would be a three-level plan. “We wanted some flexibility, so as we work through it, we can make adjustments as necessary. One of the parameters starts out at 0-5% (absent). That doesn’t mean you have to wait until it gets to 5% to make a move; you’re able to pivot from the instructional model or whatever the mitigation strategy may be,” he said.

This would be used building by building, as the number of students making up a certain percentage of the building’s student population differs. Taking Garfield Elementary as an example, he said 5% of a 140-student building would be about seven kids. “Seven students could make you make a pivot in that building,” he said.

The three mitigation categories (green, yellow and red) are broken down into mask use, close contact, cleaning protocols, facilities usage, and several other categories based on how bad or how tame COVID is within the district’s buildings.

He said the last time this had been discussed, the board requested some sort of transparent online dashboard that would show the number of positive cases in the district, the number of students with COVID-like symptoms, the amount of students and staff out of school on COVID-related absences, and so on. He said a three-phase framework based on the percentage of absences due to positive cases. “Initially, if there are a combination of positive COVID cases and a number of COVID-like symptoms, you may make a decision at one building that you might not have to make at another because they don’t have as many with those same symptoms,” he said.

He said West De Pere’s school district helped Marinette’s I.T. department put the dashboard together. “We don’t think it’s going to be a huge undertaking, but we have to make sure that our people have the right skills and are asking the correct questions for the third column: how do we determine what COVID-19 related reasons are? It could be close contact, waiting on a test, or exhibiting COVID-like symptoms,” he said.

Between Oct. 12 and this Tuesday, Lambie said there has been one new case of COVID at Sunrise Early Learning Center, one new case at Merryman Elementary, 19 at Marinette Middle School and 25 at Marinette High School. Staff numbers have remained low, with the total number of cases across all students and staff at around 2% of the district’s population. The dashboard will also show the number of students out because of close contact in the near future.